Can I change my major from "physical geography" to "math"?

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  • #1
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Hello guys on PF, thanks for your attention. I am an undergraduated student from "Peking University", which is a top 2 university in China (There are two best university in China, the other one is Tsinghua University), that is a good university. But my major is not a popular major, which is "physical geography", which is geography, but need some math and physics. My major is kind of like Geology, which is a famous major, if you have watched the big bang theory (Sheldon has been laughed at Geology many years). I always want to learn math, which is a popular major in today's time (at least my country, China, all the students in science respect and fear math).

By the way, I have failed in choosing my major 3 times, which happens when:
I am graduated from high school (choosing popular major needs good grade than choosing unpopular major);
I take a exam when my first year at college ends, the exam is to select about 50% of the participants change their major to math (the participants are from my school, any majors);
A same exam like the above one, but hold in my second year's ends at college, which is also, 2 months earlier.

But, I really have a great interest in math, also I am ranked an average level, in the crowd of students from math major of my school. (my math GPA are at about 50%, maybe a little bit backforward to 60%) I have taken most of the courses of math majors (I mean the math courses they should learn in the first two years, all obligatory courses, but they almost didn't learn any optional courses in math in the first two years), except “differential equations”, "function of a complex variable". (also some other two courses, but I won't write them, so as to be more focus on my topic)

So is there any possibility to get a Master or Ph.D in “Pure Math” major with finance award? I will have an double major in math when I graduated, and I will learn the course in pure math in my next two years.

My GPA (all course) is 3.22/4.00;
my math GPA by now is about 3.6/4.0. (I mean all the math major courses)
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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I'm confused. You say "my major...is "physical geography" but then you say "I will have an double major in math when I graduate". How is it possible to graduate with a double major in math when your degree is physical geography? Even if you are taking additional math courses as electives, you would have to far exceed your degree requirements in order to graduate with a degree in physical geography + a double major in math, especially since by your calculations you are already 4 courses behind the requirements for a math degree.
 
  • #3
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I'm confused. You say "my major...is "physical geography" but then you say "I will have an double major in math when I graduate". How is it possible to graduate with a double major in math when your degree is physical geography?
I mean the double degree, two bachelor's degree. but I think in my school it seems more like the term "minor degree", because I didn't need to learn all the courses that a pure math major student should learn. Though, it is called "double degree" in my native language (Chinese).
 
  • #4
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I mean the double degree, two bachelor's degree. but I think in my school it seems more like the term "minor degree", because I didn't need to learn all the courses that a pure math major student should learn. Though, it is called "double degree" in my native language (Chinese).
Generally the difference between a double degree and a minor is how many courses in each discipline you have completed.

1) A major + minor generally requires that you completed all the requirements of the major (physical geography) + a small number of courses in the minor subject (math). Usually this is generally somewhere in the range of 4-6 additional courses.

2) A double degree generally requires more courses in the each area of study than a minor but fewer than in a standalone major such that the total number of courses in both disciplines are roughly equal. Neither major in the double major will have as many courses in the field of study as a standalone major.

Which of these scenarios is closest to what you will have achieved? How many math courses in total will you have completed?
 
  • #5
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Generally the difference between a double degree and a minor is how many courses in each discipline you have completed.

1) A major + minor generally requires that you completed all the requirements of the major (physical geography) + a small number of courses in the minor subject (math). Usually this is generally somewhere in the range of 4-6 additional courses.

2) A double degree generally requires more courses in the each area of study than a minor but fewer than in a standalone major such that the total number of courses in both disciplines are roughly equal. Neither major in the double major will have as many courses in the field of study as a standalone major.

Which of these scenarios is closest to what you will have achieved? How many math courses in total will you have completed?
like (1), but the basic math courses in geography can be replaced by the advanced math courses (a simplified analysis VS analysis), and we regard those basic math courses the same in the two major. So in fact I can completed what a average math major student would complete, if I can go to study math in Ph.D or Master with finance award.
 
  • #6
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How many math courses in total will you have completed?
I count it out, they are probably those:
analysis(basic) (totally 3 semester)
linear algebra (2 semester), geometry
abstract algebra
differential equation
one complex variable function
probability
topology
real variable functions
functional analysis(by the end of grade 3, which is a point of time for applying to college)
and I can study a lot math courses in grade 4 if I get a addmission to pure math advanced!
 
  • #7
CrysPhys
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Where are you planning on going to grad school? China, US, or ...?
 
  • #8
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Where are you planning on going to grad school? China, US, or ...?
Any country that forms a good society, I mean no wars (I mention war because moments ago Afghanistan is on the news), low criminals, and still, the country should be normally considered better than China in respect to material condition. In fact I didn't familiar with many country from Europe, I know there are Ukrine, Czech, Greece and so on... I can accept European country cause they are normally considered to be developed country, which is better than China.

But I am not considering China (in fact in China we have our standard for admission, and it seems that I can only garuantee that I can go to some less famous than Peking Univ. and Tsinghua Univ. university to study math, so now I am trying to seek for the better, also, I know going abroad still cannot guarantee your admission to like top 200 school).

So I am wishing a top 200 school in math, and I must need the finance award. I need the money a lot to pay for no least than 80% of the tuition fee, because our money/currency is much cheaper than those in developed country, and I didn't come from a extremely rich family, but I am rich if you are considering the whole Chinese, not those in China who can consider going abroad for study. Money for eating and accommondation I think I can handle.

If it is not possible for a student with the GPA like me, pls tell me and I think I can accept.
 
  • #9
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It seems like you should have a sufficient academic background to apply to Masters or PhD programs for math but the bigger issue is going to be your GPA. In the US and Canada both your GPA in the relevant courses and your overall cGPA will be taken into consideration, but generally they will look more at the courses in your final 2 years. You will also most likely have to write the GRE and some type of English proficiency test. You will need to pull up your marks substantially especially if you are looking for financial support. A 3.22 cGPA and a 3.6 GPA in your math courses is not highly competitive. If you do manage to get accepted into a program in the US (PhD) or Canada (Masters), financial support should be provided.

I'm not qualified to provide guidance on admissions to programs in European universities.
 
  • #10
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Thank you, gwnorth.


but generally they will look more at the courses in your final 2 years.
But the apply season is the end of the first semester of grade 4, how can they look at the last semester? And I need to complete my major, so there are lot of courses in my major for my grade 4 (because all the math courses I mention above, I will have learnt them at the end of grade 3).

You will also most likely have to write the GRE and some type of English proficiency test.
Yeah, but I haven't prepare any of them yet. That is a big problem, I think I have overrestimated my english ability, think I can pass the GRE and else. In fact I am at an average level in English, if considering all the Chinese students from college.

financial support should be provided.
This sentence I cannot understand, because I didn't master the meaning of 'should' (both in English and the corresponding word in Chinese), is that mean:
the college will give me money, or
you need the money, because the tuition fee is a huge amount of money.
 
  • #11
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This sentence I cannot understand, because I didn't master the meaning of 'should' (both in English and the corresponding word in Chinese), is that mean:
the college will give me money, or
you need the money, because the tuition fee is a huge amount of money.
Should in this context means "Usually provided, but is not guaranteed"
 
  • #12
DaveE
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A word of warning, based on my limited experience decades ago in the US. I entered Caltech thinking I wanted to major in math. In my experience then, math was what I would now call analysis: calculus, complex analysis, differential equations, linear algebra (the simplest kind), etc. I was never a big fan of logic, philosophy, proofs, etc. Then I took my first, and last, Algebra class (Group Theory really)...

Lots of "real" high level math is much more abstract than the calculus you are probably used to. Test these waters, look into what math majors study in their later years before you decide.

At the risk of pissing off all of the Math people out there; there are lots of STEM fields that use, or perhaps require, the more useful side of Math. You can still study and use lots of Math in other fields. OTOH, I don't really see a lot of Math people actually doing much calculus, they've moved way beyond that stuff.
 
  • #13
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@romsofia, you are right, in the context we can understand, but the word 'should' is really weird, for its two different meaning, I can't fully understand why we use it to express these two meanings.

@DaveE, thank for your warning~ But I am the man of abstract, like do you know that multi-variables polynomial only have exact one way to factorization?like the polynomail, or integers, have exact one way to factorization. It's an amazing result in abstract algebra, and it is not really new enough, like you said, that it is the result from recent research. (it's an old theory)

@DaveE, I have met applicaiton field all the years, they want to be useful, but I think when you didn't considering the problem carefully and thoroughly, like that you cannot guarantee your machine would work, or your computer program (writing in c,c++,python) would work, you shouldn't do it in a 'test', if we are talking in the era of our time. We have lot of people living in the surface of earth, nowadays human are limited in space and nature resources, we should consider the program of big engineering carefully, then doing it, that is my point of view.

I think there will be people from the 'math challenge' thread pissing you XD, the abstract and philosophy things is what we do exactly, and it is what a Ph.D doing exactly. (Doctor of philosophy)
 
  • #14
symbolipoint
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@romsofia, you are right, in the context we can understand, but the word 'should' is really weird, for its two different meaning, I can't fully understand why we use it to express these two meanings.
Here is one way to use "should", based on an example for this common way to use "should".

If you choose to pay your bill in cash, you should bring a set of coins with you in order to make giving exact change easier.

This example applies "should" as a way to indicate a recommendation or a strong recommendation.
 
  • #15
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Yeah. But in our context the "should" implies what?
Financial support should be provided.
Are the should recommending the school? you guys would better give the student money?
 
  • #16
CrysPhys
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Yeah. But in our context the "should" implies what?
Financial support should be provided.
Are the should recommending the school? you guys would better give the student money?
You said you were confused by multiple uses of "should". Romsofia gave you the proper meaning of "should" in the context of gwnorth's Post #9. Symbolipoint's Post #14 merely gave you an example in which "should" has a different meaning.
 
  • #17
symbolipoint
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If you do manage to get accepted into a program in the US (PhD) or Canada (Masters), financial support should be provided.
(Referenced from post #9)
The main sentence does not tell how the financial support occurs; only that "financial aid be provided".

In an effort to help explain how "should" works here, and assuming the institution's program is the party who provides the financial support, the quoted sentence can be restated like:
'We would provide financial support, if you manage to get accepted into our program'

A better explanation of that might be necessary.
 
  • #18
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Yeah, I was saying that, probably, we can understand "should" in only one way, that is the way symbolipoint mentioned:
This example applies "should" as a way to indicate a recommendation or a strong recommendation.

for this sentence: financial support should be provided.
can we decode the meanning of the word "should" as "indicate a recommendation"? We asume that we, the listener of the sentence, are the rich guys from university, so this sentence is occured in such a circumustance:
A poor student entered a expensive school, then he can't afford the tuition fee or maybe he can't afford to eat, then he came to those rich guys to seek for help, and then everybody around felt that the student is poor, so everybody around say this sentence together (that means they didn't clearly point out the target of this sentence).

So I think maybe we can change this imperative sentence to a normal sentence:
Rich people, we think that finacial support should be provided.
 
  • #19
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Internationally students are not guaranteed funding in most universities! Most get it, however, not all do. So even if you're accepted to a university, you may be accepted *without* funding. So, post 9 is just telling you that you may be accepted to a US/Canadian university, and they USUALLY provided funding, but since you're international, it is NOT guaranteed. That is the function of the word "should".

Some more examples:
People are coming over for a party today, I should clean up. (You don't HAVE to clean up, but if you respect your guests, you would).
I should go to the grocery store so I stop ordering take out so much! (Once again, you don't have to go to the grocery store, the option of ordering take out is always there.)

And finally, the example we are on:
If you are accepted to graduate school as an international student, funding should be provided. (However, resident students will get the TA/RA spots first, and there is a chance that you won't receive funding!)

IMO, the way to think about the word "should" is something that is not guaranteed, but usually is done. Just like cleaning before a party, just like cooking your own food to save money. All these things should be done, but sometimes don't happen.

Hope this helps!

EDIT: This is also more relevant during summer session, as even sometimes resident students won't have funding if they haven't passed their quals yet (so no group/advisor to provide funding).
 
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  • #20
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oh, thanks! But disappointed, what @gwnorth said is in his American view, not international students......
I have always heard in China that going abroad to study is really hard, that can happens only in a necessary condition: you are extremely rich; or you are extremely extrodinary in academic.
 
  • #21
CrysPhys
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oh, thanks! But disappointed, what @gwnorth said is in his American view, not international students......
I have always heard in China that going abroad to study is really hard, that can happens only in a necessary condition: you are extremely rich; or you are extremely extrodinary in academic.
OP:

* There's no point in carping about the oddities of the English language (or any other language for that matter). If you wish to study in the US, you most likely will need to achieve a minimum score (set by each university) in the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) exam. If you don't accommodate yourself to the oddities of the language, you will fail. It's that simple.

* In the past, I've served as an industry mentor to science and engineering students (primarily physics and materials science and engineering, no math). Many were international students studying in the US, including specifically 5 from China (4 grad, 1 undergrad). I never inquired about their families' financial status, but two I got to know well enough personally that I know their families were not rich, extremely or otherwise. All 5 Chinese students (as well as several other international students from other countries) received full financial support. The Chinese grad students got tuition waivers plus a teaching assistantship or research assistantship (or a combo of both). The one Chinese undergrad got nearly full scholarship with a small work component (working in the library or other campus facility). It's not clear what you mean by "extremely extraordinary in academics", but they all had high GPAs from their home schools and high exam scores in any required entrance exams. [By the way, two of the Chinese grad students told me that there is funding from the Chinese government to study abroad. But they elected not to go with that funding, because they would have had to agree to return to China after they completed their degrees (they wanted to stay in the US). If that's not an issue with you, you might want to look into that option.]

* As far as US PhD programs in science and engineering, if you are accepted by a university that really wants you, you will receive full financial support: tuition waiver plus a stipend enough for housing, food, and miscellaneous expenses (enough to live on if you are single). In some instances, you might receive acceptance with no financial support: that's an indication you're at the bottom of the cutoff pile. In the US, funding for masters' programs is less available. The above applies whether you're a US student or an international student.

[I'll let the mathematicians on this forum address the specifics of math programs, and the Canadians on this forum address the specifics of programs in Canada.]

The stipend comes in the form of fellowships, research assistantships, or teaching assistantships (including combinations). Fellowships are the most desirable, since they come with no responsibilities (other than doing well in your courses or research). They are also the most competitive to get (with some exceptions). Some universities do not provide research assistantships to incoming grad students. And some advisors don't have research money to fund their students. So the default support would be a teaching assistantship.

* Each school in the US has different sources of funding. Some sources are restricted to US citizens. But some sources are specifically earmarked for international students, even for students from specific countries majoring in specific fields. So you need to make a list of specific schools and inquire about funding options at each.
 
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  • #22
CrysPhys
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EDIT: This is also more relevant during summer session, as even sometimes resident students won't have funding if they haven't passed their quals yet (so no group/advisor to provide funding).
Just curious. Do you mention this as a hypothetical possibility, or do you know of schools in which this is an actual problem? In the grad school I went to, you weren't accepted into a research group until after you passed your qual. And most students didn't take their qual until early their second year. But the dept provided funds for a summer grace period; i.e., they received interim research assistantships for their first summer.
 
  • #23
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oh, thanks! But disappointed, what @gwnorth said is in his American view, not international students......
I have always heard in China that going abroad to study is really hard, that can happens only in a necessary condition: you are extremely rich; or you are extremely extrodinary in academic.
Just as a point of clarification "gwnorth" is a she and and a Canadian.

My point regarding funding is that regardless of whether or not a student is domestic or international, IF they get admitted to a graduate program in math or the sciences, funding is very often provided but it is all school dependent so I can't make a blanket statement guaranteeing that it will be. Thus I qualified my statement with "usually". You should do your own personal investigation with regards to sources of funding provided by the schools you would be most likely to apply to. As to the requirement for being an extraordinary academic, that's what is required to get into the most selective programs and those programs are the ones most likely to provide full funding.
 
  • #24
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@CrysPhys , first is about the complains in the word "should", I am just curious about it. That is a philosophy issue, so maybe some of the mathmeticans are interested. (specially those interested in logic)

then thanks for your adivise, but I won't talk about the rich and poor of Chinese students going abroad. Maybe it is a perspective issue, like the relativity. In fact now I don't want to study abroad that much as when I post this thread. Because it is sophisticated, for you should take lot of exams qualifying you ability in language.
 
  • #25
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Just as a point of clarification "gwnorth" is a she and and a Canadian.
Sorry for that. And American can be interpreted as person from the continent america (though you are from north america)

:)

then I think you and @CrysPhys think that international student can get financial support as difficult as local/native/domestic student can get it. Thanks!
 

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